American TV executives sink Doha 2020 Olympic bid

Wednesday, 23 May 2012
By Duncan Mackay at the Sport Accord Convention in Québec City

Gilbert Felli_and_Mark_Adams_Quebec_City_May_23_2012May 23 - Doha's bid to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics was ended after executives from American television objected to the dates proposed.

NBC, who have the contract to cover the Games in the United States, warned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that if it was moved from its traditional July/August date to October as the Qatari capital planned then it would "become a weekend Olympics".

Last year NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion (£2.66 billion/€323 million) contract with the IOC to broadcast the 2014, 2016, 2018, and 2020 Olympics, the most expensive television rights deal in Olympic history.

Fears that hosting it in October would clash with the start of the NFL and NBA seasons plus the lucrative new autumn season shows was enough to scupper Doha's bid, even though it would have been the richest Games in the history of the Olympic Movement.

The IOC's Working Group Report laid out the problem, warning that that would lead to "reduced demographic reach, broadcasters would have difficulties in attracting the same audience levels in terms of working people and youth", meaning it would hit NBC's advertising revenue.

European broadcasters were also against a date change because it would have clashed with the early stages of the UEFA Champions League and the major football leagues.

Istanbul 2020_and_other_teams_waiting_for_candidate_city_announcement_May_23_2012
The IOC report said: "In October, broadcasters would face lower viewership/rating levels on a global level when having to compete with other major sports events or general entertainment/TV programming priorities for the autumn season.

"Significantly less Olympic broadcast would also result in lower exposure and impact commercial opportunities."

Publicly, at least, Doha accepted the decision.

"We respect the decision," said Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the daughter of Qatar's Emir and a vice-president of Doha 2020.

"We provided the dates that we thought were most suitable.

"We believe we did everything in our capacity."

But she also hinted at the fury bubbling away under the surface.

"I think the two countries that were eliminated are emerging markets and I think it is a missed opportunity for the IOC," she told insidethegames.

Baku also looked stunned by the decision with bid chief executive Konul Nurullayeva left in tears.

"We sincerely congratulate Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo that made it to the Candidate City Phase," said a statement on their Facebook page.

"We are of course extremely disappointed, but we accept the decision of the IOC Executive Board."

The report left them with no chance to stage the event as it said: "The Working Group nevertheless feels that the city's infrastructure and Games' planning and experience are not sufficiently developed at this stage to deliver successful Olympic Games in 2020.

"Concern was also expressed whether the significant amount of construction required to host the Games was consistent with the size and legacy needs of the city.

"For these reasons, the Working Group recommends to the Executive Board that Baku should not advance to the second phase of the 2020 bid process."

The move appears to be a clear message from the IOC that financial muscle plays no part in winning a bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, particularly given the fact that Madrid has made it through to the final three despite Spain's dire economic situation.

Istanbul 2020_celebrate_making_short_list_Quebec_City_May_23_2012
Istanbul also has problems as they are looking to stage the event at the same time as football's European Championships in 2020 but Tokyo was always considered to cruise through to the next stage with a clean bill of health.

Istanbul received a promising report which said: "If accepted as a Candidate City, some aspects of the plan would need to be refined to improve the athlete experience and the overall Olympic experience for all other Games' participants.

"However, the Working Group believes that the application offers good potential and recommends that the Executive Board selects Istanbul as a Candidate City."

Tokyo was also praised as the report said: "The Working Group believes that the Tokyo 2020 presents a very strong application and offers athletes the conditions to be able to compete at their best."

Tsunekazu Takeda (pictured), the President of Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese Olympic Committee, led the celebrations.

Tokyo 2020_celebrate_making_short_list_Quebec_City_May_23_2012
"We have a strong desire to generate dreams, hopes, goals and positive change across the world through the power of sports," he said.

"Tokyo 2020 will be Games of excellence and excitement staged in the world's most forward-thinking city, and will feature world-class infrastructure
and technology, powered by the energy of our young people.

We have kept the best and improved the rest from our previous bid, and are determined more than ever to produce the best Games Plan ahead of the Election of the Host City in September next year."

For Madrid, it said: "Although careful attention would need to be paid to Spain's economic outlook, the Working Group recommends that the Executive Board selects Madrid as a Candidate City."

All three were delighted with the decision.

"The recommendation from the Working Group proves that this is a new Bid for a new Turkey," said Istanbul 2020 leader Hasan Arat.

"Istanbul has learned the lessons of past Bids; we have gathered a young, dynamic and very strong team around us; and we have created a fresh and compelling concept.

"This time, Istanbul is ready to deliver."


Madrid 2020_celebrate_making_short_list_Quebec_May_23_2012
Spain's double Olympic gold medal winning sailor Theresa Zabell from the Madrid 2020 team was also delighted.

"We are obviously very pleased," Zabell told insidethegames.

"Our first reaction is that we are sorry for Doha and Baku because we know that it must be very difficult for them at this moment.

"Our second feeling is gratitude to all the people who made it possible for Madrid to reach this far.

"Not only the people on the bid team but all those people who have been involved in the past, this is our third attempt.

"Now it is a moment for us to reflect and focus until Buenos Aires and make sure we get the strongest bid and message to the IOC."

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz

Pictures by Aleksandra Sersniova


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